It’s good to be High Kingdom, Zara Tindall’s horse for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event that runs until Sunday. The Irish Bay, a gelding, arrived to his quarantined stable in style, with a magnetic massage blanket and acupuncturist in tow. His passport has also been stamped in France and Germany.
“He’s quite a good traveler,” says Tindall, after scoring 46.6 points to place 16th in Friday’s dressage test during her second go at the Western Hemisphere’s toughest eventing competition. On Saturday, after the cross-country test, Tindall climbed to third place. “He got injured in his stable right before it began in 2015, so I was just happy to get in the ring this time.”
Citing the long distance and limited leg power — the pair competes so often that she’s lost track — Tindall is a rarity on the U.S. equestrian circuit. She looked forward to a fresh crop of American riders versus the same old-same old in Britain, comparing their skill level to the Stateside version of the Badminton Horse Trials in South Gloucestershire, England. But a German, Michael Jung, the Rolex Kentucky’s two-time champ who’s going for a record-breaking third consecutive win, would probably be her biggest threat.
“Unfortunately, he decided to come this year, but we’ll just have to get on with it,” she says, channeling the crowd’s enthusiasm, which included her father, Captain Mark Phillips, but not her mother, Anne, Princess Royal, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. “They’re much livelier here than at home, and I’m more relaxed [she even made time to visit Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at his retirement farm and to check out bustling downtown Lexington].”
The excitement surrounding her appearance here and her appointment as a Rolex testimonee shows how the brand has really come full circle with its equestrian ties. It’s been 60 years since Pat Smythe, a show jumper who “leaned in” long before Sheryl Sandberg, was appointed as Rolex’s first equestrian testimonee. The 35-year-old Tindall says winning one of her three Rolex watches, a Datejust, at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany, in 2006 was almost better than winning a medal.
“FEI medals aren’t so attractive, but I would like an Olympic gold medal.”